Mother Nature is a beautiful enchantress, tempting us with her rich and diverse landscapes that are so full of life. To join her then is to leave the comfort of our own homes, to enter her stunning domain, and to embrace her natural and healthy lifestyle through hiking.
If it isn’t already abundantly clear, I love hiking. It affords us the opportunity to explore the natural environment and to lead an active and healthy life. For a majority of people however, such an activity seems difficult and hard to get into. Their concept of hiking comes from a several week expedition in the Himalayas or the perilous climb of El Caminito del Rey. But this couldn’t be more wrong. Hiking can be a simple stroll in a national park, or even an off-trail meander through the hills in the countryside. The principle is to get outside, breathe some fresh air, and to enjoy the beauty of our Earth.
I myself am renowned for finding trails where none exist. While backpacking through Europe I would regularly inquire locals about exploring the surrounding landscape. More often than not I would simply be pointed to the closest mountain and would decide to conquer it. In Turkey for instance, I hiked 8 hours straight up a mountain, seemingly rock climbing more so than hiking at times. I passed the tree line, made it into the clouds, and eventually reached the plateau on top. From here I had an exceptional view of the valley that spread beneath me.
On this particular hike, I had planned to spend the night, and thereby was carrying appropriate equipment to last me for the two days. This included a tent and sleeping bag, plenty of food and water, weather protective clothing, tools and emergency equipment.
Safety should always be the number one priority when undertaking any sort of adventure, even if it is tame and short. Essential items include a mobile phone for communications, a map, GPS or compass so you know where you are going, a headlamp for both night activities and signalling, a first-aid kit and any supplementary items such as an anti-venom kit, weatherproof clothing such as a raincoat and warm weather gear, as well as good shoes with appropriate grip. Of course this is a brief list, and for any serious hikes you should be researching the area and investigating what equipment is required.
Common sense is also necessary, as dangerous situations should be avoided and paths re-traced on your way back. I once made that very mistake, and if it wasn’t for my headlight, whereby I could signal S.O.S., I’d be a goner. Remember, it’s more difficult going down than it is going up!
Care should also be taken in disturbing the flora and fauna of the environment. Pick up after yourself, don’t wilfully damage anything, and leave the animals alone (unless they’re super cute and come to you). How does that saying go? Oh right. Take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints.
So while you must exercise caution when exploring Mother Nature, it truly is one of the more magical activities we can undertake. Fresh air, beautiful sceneries, harmonic sounds and rich aromas are just a fraction of the wonderful sensations she can bring us, with every hike just adding more to the list.